Outside Sales vs. Inside Sales: The Different Kinds of Sales and How to Find the Right Talent for Each One

Samantha Pratt Lile
May 19, 2021
 min read
Outside Sales vs. Inside Sales: The Different Kinds of Sales and How to Find the Right Talent for Each OneOutside Sales vs. Inside Sales: The Different Kinds of Sales and How to Find the Right Talent for Each One
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“Many companies are already using a hybrid form of inside sales, with reps calling from their company's home office, then traveling occasionally to client locations and merely calling it ‘sales." - Ken Krogue, Co-Founder,

Sales are sales, and salespeople are interchangeable… right?

Wrong! While the end goal of sales is to acquire new business, the strategies used to achieve those results differ. Some sales focus on acquiring the most profitable clients, while others seek a greater volume of new customers.

Not only do they serve different purposes, but various sales types also typically occur in different environments. Likewise, the type of person who can best fill each role shares distinct traits and qualities.

Sales typically fall into one of two categories based on where and how they occur. Inside sales take place just where their name implies: inside a business. These remote sales can occur via telephone, email, chat or various CRM platforms.

Outside sales are similarly defined: They occur on an in-person basis, typically outside of the office. Thus, outside sales are also known as field sales, as the salespeople meet with prospective clients outside of their sales headquarters.

So, what are other differences between outside sales vs. inside sales?

Historically, more companies focused on outside sales since the most profitable of clients will seek a professional interaction with their sales representatives. Many companies, however, are now expanding to include more inside sales efforts with their greater volume equal to about 15 times the number of outside sales acquisitions.

After a year consisting of primarily remote business around the world, the transition to more inside sales was hastened by pandemic-related quarantines and closures, although some of that is expected to reverse in 2021. According to research from HubSpot, 68 percent of sales leaders say they will adopt either a full remote or hybrid selling model in 2021.

Customer expectations of salespeople have also shifted toward inside sales. According to a Sales Benchmark Index survey, only about 28 percent of buyers now prefer to make their purchases in a face-to-face environment. 

Of course, most organizations will still send out their top sales reps to finalize the most profitable acquisitions in person. Still, sales of small products, mass-marketed products and one-time purchases occur more often in an inside sales environment, where the velocity is far greater than through outside appointment.

Because inside and outside sales require different strategies, salespeople who find success in inside and outside sales typically boast differing personality traits. 

How can you find and hire the right talent for the different types of sales? Start by understanding what qualities to look for in outside sales representatives and inside sales representatives.

What makes a successful outside sales rep?

What is an outside sales rep?

An outside sales representative meets with prospective clients in the field and acquires clients from face-to-face interactions. Responsible for creating positive customer experiences and buying journeys, an outside salesperson must rely on not only effective verbal communication, but also efficient nonverbal signals.

The sales process begins with a well-developed phone presence before transitioning to more personal interactions. Appearance and personal presentation are key to successful outside sales, as are energy and enthusiasm. 

A successful outside sales representative must impress potential clients not only when introducing themselves and their products and establishing a customer relationship, but also maintain that positive relationship to ensure future business.

Other key characteristics of a successful outside sales representative include:

  • Strong and effective interpersonal communication skills
  • Motivation and drive
  • Ability to work independently
  • Goal and detail orientation
  • Organization
  • Willingness to work within a team
  • Flexibility
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Persuasiveness

What makes a successful inside sales rep?

What is an inside sales rep?

Inside sales have evolved greatly in recent decades. It wasn’t all that long ago when an inside sales representative was little more than a telemarketer, and little skill was needed beyond a professional phone presence and a drive to meet sales quotas.

Today’s inside salespeople are tech-savvy, taking advantage of selling avenues through phone, email, chat, social media and presentations. Top-performing inside salespeople boast an aptitude for selling and a positive attitude to keep pressing for another sale in spite of a likely series of rejections. Sometimes, inside sales can open doors to a career in outside sales with its larger transactions, greater profit and increased income.

Other qualities of a successful inside sales representative include:

  • Perseverance, motivation and dedication
  • Research and analysis skills
  • Effective questioning and listening skills
  • Aptitude for social media
  • Empathy for prospective clients
  • Optimism
  • Persuasiveness

In the modern sales environment, the line between inside and outside sales continues to blur, as companies adopt sales strategies incorporating elements of each. As the combination becomes more prevalent among businesses in practically any market, the skills of an inside sales rep and an outside salesperson also become more interchangeable. On the same coin, both techniques may rely heavily on presentations as a vehicle to present and sell their offering to prospective clients. 

“For years, inside sales has been relegated to generating leads for the more senior outside sales reps or merely closing the smaller accounts. This is now no longer the case,” co-founder Ken Krogue wrote in a piece for Forbes. “Many companies are already using a hybrid form of inside sales, with reps calling from their company's home office, then traveling occasionally to client locations and merely calling it ‘sales.”

Check out our sales proposal presentation template, pre-built by industry experts, as a jumping off point for both outside and inside sales reps. 

Samantha Pratt Lile

Samantha Pratt Lile

Samantha is an independent journalist, editor, blogger and content manager. Examples of her published work can be found at sites including the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, and Buzzfeed.